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- President Joe Biden presented Elton John with a National Humanities Medal and recognized the singer’s longtime activism to slow the spread of AIDS.
- Biden said: "By the way, it’s all his fault that we’re spending $6 billion in taxpayer money this month to help AIDS — fight HIV/AIDS." But Biden’s remarks in context make it clear that he wasn’t blaming John for AIDS.
On Sept. 23, President Joe Biden surprised singer Elton John with a National Humanities Medal. Biden recognized the longtime AIDS activist for his musicianship, advocacy and courage in finding "purpose to challenge convention, shatter stigma, and advance the simple truth that everyone deserves to be treated with respect."
But a screenshot of a tweet from Lavern Spicer, who unsuccessfully sought a Florida seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, has circulated on social media in the days since, making it seem as though the president actually disparaged the British artist.
"Joe Biden blamed Elton John for AIDS and everyone just gave him a free pass for it," the tweet said.
One Instagram post featuring the tweet also included a clip of the White House event at which Biden presented John with the medal.
"By the way," Biden said, referring to $6 billion the United States is contributing to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, "it’s all his fault that we’re spending $6 billion in taxpayer money this month to help AIDS — fight HIV/AIDS."
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Biden’s remarks in context make it clear that he wasn’t blaming John for AIDS, a disease caused by HIV, an infection that attacks the body’s immune system. The video shows John applauding Biden’s "it’s all his fault" comment, and applause and cheers from the audience are also audible.
"We’re joined by so many people that … he’s set free to be themselves, to be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve," Biden said earlier in the evening. "Families and advocates in the fight against HIV/AIDS … a fight that he has led with sheer will, and fight for those lives lost and those lives that we can save."
Immediately before Biden made the comment that’s featured in the Instagram post, John said he would treasure his medal, and that it would make him double his efforts "to make sure this disease goes away."
"Your kindness — America’s kindness to me as a musician is second to none," John said. "But in the war against AIDS and HIV, it’s even bigger. I can’t thank you enough."
Biden appeared to be crediting John for his activism over the years. He wasn’t blaming him for the spread of AIDS. We rate that claim False.
Instagram post, Sept. 25, 2022
The White House, Remarks by President Biden Before the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 21, 2022
The Associated Press, Global Fund gets powerful help with $18 billion funding goal, Sept. 20, 2022
The White House, Remarks by President Biden and first lady Jill Biden at "A Night When Hope and History Rhyme," a musical performance by Sir Elton John to honor everyday history makers, Sept. 23, 2022
NPR, Elton John was moved to tears by a surprise award from President Biden, Sept. 25, 2022
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